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10 Business Card Mistakes You Might Be Making

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Everyone should have a business card, right? Whether you have a business, a nonprofit, a local organization or are looking for a new job, you need a way to leave people with important information. But most make big business card mistakes.  Do you?

To write this post, I grabbed ten random business cards from a stack I received last week. So you can see I didn’t have to look far for examples.

So if you are ready, pull out your card, lay it on the desk near your computer, pull out a pen or highlighter and be ready to identify the business card mistakes you are making

Here are the 10 business card mistakes people make:

#1 Small font size

Some of us have perfect vision.  But if that’s what it takes to read the letters and numbers on your card, you are asking for trouble. Because most of us don’t.  So today (or before you print your new cards), please walk them around to a variety of people and ask a simple question: “Can you tell me what this says?”

#2 Glossy paper

One way I can make your card more usable and memorable is to make some notes on it before I leave you.  But if you have a varnish on top, you make that hard.  Will your cards get a little dirty without it?  Yes.  But I’d rather be able to write on your card. And ask you to keep your cards out of your wallet.

#3 Light font color

I mentioned font size up above.  This one’s about font color.  It’s also about contrast.  So if your card uses a font that is too light (grey, for example) or one that is too close to the color of your card, I won’t be able to read it.  And if I can’t read it, there’s a good chance I will send an email to the wrong address or call the wrong phone number.  Or just give up.

#4 Design inconsistent with website

Whether your business is just you or you + 100 others, there is great value in having a card design that integrates the look and feel of your brand.  So if you have a website, a store front, a product line look or anything else, shouldn’t the look of your business card be consistent? Few of us have enough money to be driving thousands of people to our site or store everyday.  But you can at least create more recognition of your brand via integration of your marketing materials.

#5 No links to social media sites

If you use Facebook, Twitter or YouTube to attract people to your brand, shouldn’t you include links to those sites on your business card?  It’s a great way to encourage more fans and followers.  Simply by letting people know how to find you. Can’t find the space?  See #10 below.

#6 No email/web address or bad email

Amazingly, I found two cards without an email address.  And one without a web address.  Just a phone number.  What if I’m not ready to talk live yet?  There’s always a place to send people.  Don’t have a website? Use your LinkedIn profile (as long as you aren’t too lazy on LinkedIn). And then there were two cards that had a nice logo and business name combined with a gmail address. That lowers your credibility in my eyes.  Especially when it is so easy to get an email address with your own custom url.

#7 Printed on poor quality paper

I have a friend who owns a consulting business who charges in the five figures for their services. When I got their new business card recently, I was disappointed to pick it up and realize (instantly) what cheap paper they used. Please don’t “cheap out” on the paper.  Your brand matters to people.  And often the first and early impressions are based on things like your business card.  Would I pay $10,000 to someone who has a paper-thin business card? Would you?

#8 Shares too much information

Some cards are so full of information that you really don’t know where to start.  A business card is not a good place for your elevator pitch. It’s a place to entice people.  To draw them in and guide them as to how they can learn more about your business or services.  Are you over-delivering on your card?

#9 Includes no brand promise or tagline

Every person, company, organization or nonprofit needs a clear and compelling brand promise.  Here are a few brand promise examples if you need them. They quickly tell your story and tell people why you are relevant (or not).  Without a brand promise, your card is simply a contact card – a lot less interesting. Not sure why you need a brand promise?

#10 Does not use back of card

I believe in white space (room around the content that makes your card easier to read) so I always recommend you use the back side of the card.  If you put your brand promise on the back, you can hand someone your card with that side facing up (and saying the brand promise out loud).

So what other business card mistakes are people making?  Want to send me your card for feedback?  Use my contact form to get in touch.

marketing, branding, business strategy, social networking, coaching, consulting, ideas, business cardsHere’s a photo of a sample card – you can offer your feedback in the comments!













Written by: Tim Tyrell-Smith
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Categories: Personal Branding
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  • Julie

    I really like the brand promise on the back of your card idea and will definitely use this and recommend it to my students, but I think yours is a bit ambiguous.  Instead of listing who can use your service (guess I need to hope I’m in one of those 3 categories), list a few of those “great things” you’re referring to.  Help me see what you can do for me in Marketing, Social Media and Business Coaching (your brand on the front of your card).

    Back to those 3 categories of clients you can serve…I’m thinking you don’t want to limit yourself in any way – ie: so, if you meet someone from a big company and they want your help, you won’t help them because they don’t fit into your target categories.  As a business person, your target should be pretty much anyone!  You, as a service provider, should want to talk to just about anyone and then YOUR job is to identify how your services can help them.  You’ve kind of made it their job to fit with you (one of your categories).  If you’re networking with someone and hand them your card with that side facing up and they don’t necessarily fit into one of those categories, you’ve wasted their time and yours…right?!


  •  Hey Julie – Always appreciate the feedback. Thanks! It’s interesting you mention the three categories. I had a very specific purpose in wanting to attract that target market. First, I was just starting my business at the time and wanted to set a reasonable target for getting started. Second, because these were groups of people I knew I could really help (and really needed my help.  In terms of listing examples of great things – that’s a good idea – let me think about that. As my business has evolved and become known, my ability to attract a broader target has improved.

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  • Why should we have just one business card?
    More and more today we are called to be multifunctional and we as professional are called to provide solutions to many types of problems. I’m a business analyst/Project manager and keep two cards depending on the nature of the relationship.

  •  Hey Jeff – I agree that you can have multiple cards. If I suggested one only in the post (or if it was implied) that was unintentional.  I have three cards (for three different businesses) and simply used one of them as an example…

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  • Chris

    Design for the longest possible name or title. It should work for Bob Smith or Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

  • A good addition, Chris. Thanks.

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  • thats a good tip I’ve never considered that really

  • Chris

    Excellent tips! Thank you for the advice Tim. Is there a distinct advantage between having a skinny business card vs one with standard dimensions? I know it’s silly, but there seems to be a periodic shift toward the “cutting edge” trends, even with things like numbers going from “555-555-5555” to “555.555.5555” in the newer companies. Is there any aesthetic advantage or “cool” factor that will help your business stand out if you opt for the 3.5″x1″ business card as opposed to the classic 3.5″x2″ dimension?

  • Katherine Kerley

    Great article! Was just checking out this page as I’m putting together a business card for my band, and realizing that we need a “band promise” or some sort of tagline. Good tips, thanks!

  • Hey Chris – The cards that stand out (due to size differences) sometimes get thrown out. I think that if a card is handed to someone in the right context (the brand or offering is immediately relevant), the size does not need to be unique.

  • Yes – what will your performance do for people – what can they expect? Good idea!

  • Chris

    Tim, I’ve searched high and low, and ended up coming back to this article to hopefully find my answer. Are folded business cards a no-no? I like the idea of the folded card having some additional space for information, like a mini-brochure, or an elevator pitch within itself in case I choose to use it as a leave-behind. The only problem is that I don’t know if they’re a good idea in the business world, or if they’re just something business card companies offer to newcomers who don’t know any better.

  • Hey Chris – Folded cards are rare because they are expensive and most have found them unusable as a business card. The idea of a card that also acts as a larger brochure sounds interesting, but in practice, people don’t know what to do with them. So instead of standing out, your brand ends up in the circular file. I would go 2-sided and take “less space” to mean – use the space you have wisely. 🙂

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  • celine

    I have a question regarding the content of the business card. I have two jobs in different companies so I don’t know what to write as a title. Both jobs are a good combination as they are different position in different industries (one is business research for a company and the other is academic research for a think tank). If I write one company or the other, it limits my opportunities to this specific sector. But if I don’t write any, it can look as I am “unemployed” or “inexperienced”.. What do you think???

  • Hi Celine – If you are truly employed at two different companies, it seems the best way to reduce confusion is to have two different cards – one for each role/company. That way you can use each in different networking situations. If you are an employee of both companies, do they not provide you with a card already? If not, are you consulting? If consulting, are you misrepresenting your role by having a card with a title? In the end I would not have one card with both companies/names – that would likely be more confusing for people… feel free to clarify your situation in a reply.

  • celine

    Thank you very very much for your answer to my question. You understood my problem but I am going to clarify a bit more the situation, so that maybe you can find a solution (It would be GREAT, as my friends and I have been trying to find a solution for days!!). Ok so, I have currently two positions, I am not a consultant per se, I am an employee of both places. The first position is Research Assistant International Relations focus Asia for a think tank located at a university (so it is an academic position). The second position is International Market Research Coordinator for a private company (this position is more practical but doesn’t focus on Asia). Ok now: what I am looking for by networking is to find contacts and eventually a position that can meet my professional career path and goals, which are: working in business with Asia. That is why I accepted my two current jobs, because they complementary and suits, both partly, my final goal (one is a business job, the other is related to Asia). On one hand, by mentioning only one position, it doesn’t really represent what I am doing now and more importantly what I want to do in the future. On the other hand, by mentioning the two,it is confusing and a business card shouldn’t be a CV. So the only solution I came up with was to create a business card with a general title like “international affairs consultant” (without company names), but then it looks either unemployed (because no company name) or inexperienced (like students).. So here it is!!! The big dilemma!!! What would you do in my position??
    Thank you so much in advance for your help

  • Thanks for the extra info Celine. If your goal is to create a career path in business (not academia) with a focus on Asia, then I would solidify that with a focus on your business job and use your academic research as a way to reinforce/add credibility to your potential. Look at LinkedIn and you will see a lot of people with two jobs (or more) on their profile. It is now becoming more accepted vs. one traditional job. Positioned correctly, the research role can be a powerful and complementary part of your pitch.

    So I would have one card representing your business value and then use your research role as a key reinforcer. And be careful that you don’t over-value the role of the business card. What you say will be remembered far more than a title on a business card. The business card should be a touch point as part of an overall strategy.

    So, what does your LinkedIn profile summary say? What do you say in your elevator pitch? How about Twitter or other social profiles. You need to create a whole strategy where the card is just a delivery vehicle.

    I hope that helps. 🙂

  • celine

    Thank you so much for your advice, you clarified the situation and you are right, I want to work in business so it will be better to create a business card mentioning my business job and I will just explain to the person I am giving my card to, that I also do research (to reinforce it). Well, on my LinkedIn my title is “International Affairs Consultant”. And I thought about writing this title on my business card, but without mentioning the name of an employer, it doesn’t look professional. On LinkedIn it’s OK because people can just click on my profile and have a look at my resume. Business Cards is different.. Thank you so so much

  • Sara Comer

    hi, I am wondering if creating a business card before you start up a business a good idea or do you wait? I am thinking of making blankets to sell and my promise is “Blanket’s made by hand with love” and I crochet so what title should i use? I have a friend that own’s a consignment shop and was going to sell them that way plus get a Facebook page as well and I want to offer other services too like doilies and scarves and hat’s while i am making a few blankets.

  • My company offers several different services (mainly wedding planning, handmade spa products, custom jewelry, design and photography). Some of the services my business partner and I perform together, like wedding planning and making spa products. But other services are done only by one of us; for example, I do the design and photography, but I’m terrible at making jewelry. My business partner was afraid that it looks like I’m starting my own photography business if I get a separate card geared toward our photo clients. So in your opinion, does it make sense for us to have multiple business cards maybe highlighting specific services? Or should we just stick to one card with a general list of all the services we offer (which we currently are using)?

  • Hi Sara – Sorry for the slow response! Yes, I think it’s a good idea. You will likely go through iterations on your name, logo, services, etc as your business matures so good to formalize your company as soon as you are ready to begin talking about it. And the official nature of a card may be a motivator for you! Good luck!

  • Hi Andrea – Generally I would say one card that you both use would make more sense. It’s less expensive and if you see yourselves as long term business partners, I would say keep it all as one. If you find, over time, that you want to build out a separate business from your partner or one portion of your services has become much bigger and clearly not part of the whole, you might find more customers for specific services with a dedicated card. Hope that helps!

  • Sydni

    Hi TIm,
    We are redoing our business cards and one of the VPs is suggesting that we add reference to one of our products on the card.

    We develop software and have a prominent product that we actively promote at conventions. Our current cards currently represent our company – as developers of custom software. However, at conventions our clientele are not interested in a custom build, they are interested in the particular software piece relevant to their industry. They know the product by name and most likely are not familiar with our company name. This creates confusion and requires an explanation when handing out a card. After the convention, the person may not recall that the info on that card is the contact info for the product.

    In other cases, we meet with clients interested in a custom built software who are not aware of our flagship product. Having the product on our card for those folks would be irrelevant.

    As I am writing this, it seems like the best answer is to have two cards:
    1. Company card
    2. Company card with “Developers of x product” – or something similar on the back

    What are your thoughts on this?

  • Hi Sydni –

    I see two approaches here. One is, like you suggested, have a normal business card and a “product card” that is intended to highlight the relevant software for a unique audience. While that will work, it adds complexity and cost, not a lot, but perhaps this can be avoided.

    Another option would be to have a two-sided card with side one (the business side) being face up for the business intro and side two (the product side) being face up for the product reminder/re-intro. As long as including the product info on side two won’t be a negative (even if irrelevant for some), that might be a good option. In this case, even if someone is looking for custom software, your success in creating your own product (if it is known and respected), might offer added credibility.

    Hope that helps and good luck!

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